Salary disparities among medical specialties play a major role in the shortage of primary care physicians, a recent JAMA study shows.
Ebell found the same relationship in a study he conducted nearly 20 years ago. Since then, the salary disparities have grown and the shortage of primary care physicians—including those in family medicine, pediatrics, or general internal medicine—has become more pronounced. In the past decade, the number of U.S. medical school graduates entering family practice residencies has dropped 50 percent.
Ebell’s suggests one possible reform: expanded debt relief for students who choose primary care practices—especially in underserved areas. The average debt for a medical school graduate has quadrupled—from $35,000 to $140,000—in the nearly 20 years since Ebell’s original study. When students graduate with the equivalent of a mortgage in debt, he says, they can’t help but be drawn to high-paying specialties rather than primary care.
“The problem of salary disparities … is not something that anyone is going to solve locally. This is something that will require reform at a national level.” — Dr. Mark Ebell